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Social Network Revelations – When Mom Joins Facebook

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Listen to this post:

Audio Blog: When Mom Joins Facebook

Something happened today that left me rather surprised.  It was one of those powerful epiphanies that don’t necessarily change your views on things, but rather re-affirm and clarify what you already knew in such a powerful and clear cut way that it leaves you a bit shell shocked.

To set the stage – I got a call last night from my mom.  She was interested in setting up her own account and giving Facebook a try. For the last year or so I’ve let both of my parents log in on my account to view my photos (especially trip photos while traveling) and periodic postings.  We got her account set up fairly quickly as I answered several of her initial questions over the phone and before long she was making her way through her basic profile adding information and updating settings. I suggested a few friends and then left her to play with the site. While a traumatizing thought for a lot of young adults my age, that’s not the source of the revelation.

You see, my parents and I have an extremely close relationship.  I typically call home on a daily basis as I make my 20 minute commute home from work and during the call we exchange ideas, reflect on the day, and brainstorm.  They are both incredible mentors that I work and talk with on a regular basis.  A relationship made that much closer by the 2 years we spent on the road together when my brother and I were younger – 1 year backpacking through Europe and another year R.V.ing across the US. To that end, we all know a lot about each other. They are as much parents as they are mentors, and as much mentors as they are friends.

So, you can imagine my shock when I checked in on my mom’s Facebook progress and found not one, but two pieces of information I had completely wrong about her.  I’ve always thought that she received her masters in education similar to my dad’s doctorate in education as they have both been heavily involved in education for years.  The reality is that her masters was in Planning and Community Development – an equally fascinating field but completely different than education, as I’ve spent the last 15 some odd years believing.  The second revelation came in the form of a date. I always assumed, but had no real idea, she’d received her masters years before I was born. Here again Facebook set me straight. The degree pre-dated my birth by 2 years, not the 5-10 I’d envisioned.

I’ve decided to share these details with you, not because of their individual relevance, but because I believe it is a compelling illustration of the power of social networks as an informative tool offering insights into our friends, and even close family. Before yesterday, if you had asked me if I’d learn something new about my mom through her Facebook account, my answer would have been a confident “no”. Obviously, I was mistaken.  Social networks can provide powerful insights into those we associate with and affiliate with. They collect, sort, and display insights into us that might otherwise never come up in casual conversation but are highly relevant to our relationships. A lot of the dialogue about Facebook and its impact focuses on how social networks connect us with people relationally (eg: 6 degrees of connection) but this experience has reminded me that social networks offer insights far beyond how we connect.  They offer us insights into who we connect with as well.

Today I learned a bit more about one of the three people I’m closest to and it was through Facebook. What a surprising day.

Similar experiences?  Thoughts?  Please share them in the comments!

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

8 Comments

  • Alphonse Ha
    August 14, 2008

    “Social networks are truly an amazingly powerful insight into those we associate with and affiliate with. They collect, sort, and display insights into us that might otherwise never come up in casual conversation but are highly relevant to our relationships.”

    I absolutely agree. I don’t have a similar experience where I have known a person very well just to find out that I was wrong about a few facts in their life. However, it has happened to me numerous times that the information I received on Facebook was not intimate but was personal and this helped me forge a significant connection with somebody else. These informations are something that would never come up in a casual conversation (Favorite quotes for instance. They would be a great idea for conversation but how often does it come up when you meet somebody?) but would help forge a deeper and more meaningful relationship because it is more relevant to the person you are speaking to.

    PS: I admire the relationship you have with your parents. I wish I had that too.

    Reply
  • Alphonse Ha
    August 14, 2008

    “Social networks are truly an amazingly powerful insight into those we associate with and affiliate with. They collect, sort, and display insights into us that might otherwise never come up in casual conversation but are highly relevant to our relationships.”

    I absolutely agree. I don’t have a similar experience where I have known a person very well just to find out that I was wrong about a few facts in their life. However, it has happened to me numerous times that the information I received on Facebook was not intimate but was personal and this helped me forge a significant connection with somebody else. These informations are something that would never come up in a casual conversation (Favorite quotes for instance. They would be a great idea for conversation but how often does it come up when you meet somebody?) but would help forge a deeper and more meaningful relationship because it is more relevant to the person you are speaking to.

    PS: I admire the relationship you have with your parents. I wish I had that too.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    August 14, 2008

    Alphonse,

    Thanks for the response! Excellent thoughts! I too use facebook as a based for conversational ideas when in the early stages of a relationship. I’ve also found it to be a wonderful way to pre-screen people with very different priorities than my own.

    In respect to my parents – I’m definitely very lucky. The opportunity to work with my parents, exchange ideas, and exchange thoughts has been instrumental in not only allowing me to chase and attain my dreams, but also to re-define them.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    August 14, 2008

    Alphonse,

    Thanks for the response! Excellent thoughts! I too use facebook as a based for conversational ideas when in the early stages of a relationship. I’ve also found it to be a wonderful way to pre-screen people with very different priorities than my own.

    In respect to my parents – I’m definitely very lucky. The opportunity to work with my parents, exchange ideas, and exchange thoughts has been instrumental in not only allowing me to chase and attain my dreams, but also to re-define them.

    Reply
  • Scott Skinner
    August 17, 2008

    Interestingly enough, my Uncle (John Skinner) started his journey on Facebook a few weeks ago. It actually feels a little “off” having him on facebook, as mean and selfish as that sounds. I feel like “hey! this is for MY generation!”.

    Reply
  • Scott Skinner
    August 17, 2008

    Interestingly enough, my Uncle (John Skinner) started his journey on Facebook a few weeks ago. It actually feels a little “off” having him on facebook, as mean and selfish as that sounds. I feel like “hey! this is for MY generation!”.

    Reply
  • MaxBro
    August 23, 2008

    It’s almost never a good thing for your family to know you blog or keep a social networking profile online. There are several reasons for this:

    1. They will possibly misconstrue something you write to mean something you didn’t intend, and then bring it up through email or phone call or even at the next family dinner.

    2. Because of the age difference, they may not understand the context of what you’re talking about.

    3. Just because something happens to almost everyone doesn’t mean it should be shared with family. Hey, everyone had a bad hook-up in college, but writing about doesn’t score you any points with Aunt Ida, the fundamentalist.

    4. In all likelihood, your content is not meant for an audience that includes your family. Sometimes we write about things that are geared towards specific types (i.e. gamers, guys, comic book fans etc.) that allow for a certain tone of writing you wouldn’t use with your family.

    5. They don’t get it. It’s really that simple. Most likely, whatever you’re all about your family just won’t understand through the medium of your blog. Face to face, telephone, maybe even email. But blogging. It’s like Greek to them. Even some of the best bloggers out there get misunderstood sometimes.

    6. Knowing all the things above will hurt your creative drive. You’ll always be thinking, “Is this something I want my family to see?” “Will they understand the nuance of this?”

    Family is great through email, but they really don’t belong in your blogosphere unless you’re writing stuff that’s totally squeaky clean.

    Reply
  • MaxBro
    August 24, 2008

    It’s almost never a good thing for your family to know you blog or keep a social networking profile online. There are several reasons for this:

    1. They will possibly misconstrue something you write to mean something you didn’t intend, and then bring it up through email or phone call or even at the next family dinner.

    2. Because of the age difference, they may not understand the context of what you’re talking about.

    3. Just because something happens to almost everyone doesn’t mean it should be shared with family. Hey, everyone had a bad hook-up in college, but writing about doesn’t score you any points with Aunt Ida, the fundamentalist.

    4. In all likelihood, your content is not meant for an audience that includes your family. Sometimes we write about things that are geared towards specific types (i.e. gamers, guys, comic book fans etc.) that allow for a certain tone of writing you wouldn’t use with your family.

    5. They don’t get it. It’s really that simple. Most likely, whatever you’re all about your family just won’t understand through the medium of your blog. Face to face, telephone, maybe even email. But blogging. It’s like Greek to them. Even some of the best bloggers out there get misunderstood sometimes.

    6. Knowing all the things above will hurt your creative drive. You’ll always be thinking, “Is this something I want my family to see?” “Will they understand the nuance of this?”

    Family is great through email, but they really don’t belong in your blogosphere unless you’re writing stuff that’s totally squeaky clean.

    Reply

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